GNWT unveils new Indigenous anti-bias training program

"Sometimes there's no words for it, but they sew," Marie Speakman says of the Beaded Heart Tapestry. People from across Canada and as far away as Japan created these hearts in honour and memory of the missing and murdered. The tapestry hung in the room where the national inquiry's Yellowknife hearings were held. (Photo by MyTrueNorthNow.com staff.)
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The GNWT unveiled a new Indigenous anti-bias training program for its employees.

The program is called Living Well Together, and addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ 57th call to action, as well as articles 14 and 15 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, according to Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek.

The training will be mandatory for all GNWT employees, says Wawzonek. The training should be completed by all government employees within twelve months.

Minister Caroline Wawzonek addressing the Legislative Assembly. (Supplied by Assembly NWT Twitter.)

“I think the why really just reflects how critically important it is at the core of public service, that if we’re going to be serving the public we should be doing so — in Canada, with a spirit of reconciliation, and with an understanding of what that means and what those words mean,” she said.

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When the training was reviewed in 2017, the review found the training needed to have a greater focus on addressing the history of colonization, the legacy of residential schools reconciliation and cultural competence. 

The new program is split into two series with eight modules total, which is longer than originally planned, says Wawzonek.


The Truth series, comprising modules two to five, raises awareness about colonization, residential schools and Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations. The Reconciliation series, modules six to eight, focuses on developing cultural sensitivity and the practice of reconciliation.

The modules take between 10 and 30 hours to complete, depending on how much extra reading employees do.

The training will also be made available for non-GNWT employees via the Department of Finance’s website.

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While this training has been made available for current employees, there aren’t changes being made to how new hires are asked about systemic racism and cultural competence in job interviews.

“We will ask questions about racism or cultural competency there are certainly positions jobs where greater awareness of relationships with Indigenous government might be important and be a part of the job description, depending if you’re in a negotiation position or if you’re in a liaison position,” said Wawzonek. “But broadly, no it’s not right now part of the hiring process per se.”

MLA for Great Slave Lake Katrina Nokleby says racial minorities are underrepresented in the public service and the GNWT needs to be more accountable and make changes for prospective employers, not just current ones.

“It is crucial that the GNWT adopt a culture of continuously reviewing and analyzing its policies and practices for racial bias, in all departments,” she said in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

The questions were part of the Legislative Assembly’s day of focusing on systemic racism, with most MLA’s addressing issues on systemic racism in their statements.

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